Drug Checking Services in Toronto, Ontario
In response to the high incidence of overdose deaths caused by the contamination of street drugs, the CDPE, with financial support from the Substance Use and Addictions Program of Health Canada and St. Michael’s Hospital Foundation and in-kind support from project partners, is leading a multi-site drug checking services pilot project in Toronto, Ontario.
Drug checking services (DCS) provide people who use drugs (PWUD) with timely information on the composition of their street drugs to facilitate more informed choices related to drug use and increase their capacity to avoid lethal amounts of toxic substances.
Preliminary evidence from DCS launched throughout Europe has established their effectiveness in reducing harms associated with the consumption of street drugs, including by allowing PWUD to employ harm reduction strategies that are tailored to their analysis results (e.g., starting with a smaller dose when high potency is detected).
For DCS in Toronto, preparation and collection of drug samples will be conducted by three partnering frontline harm reduction agencies, including Parkdale Queen West Community Health Centre (Queen West site), South Riverdale Community Health Centre, and The Works at Toronto Public Health. DCS will be offered in tandem with supervised consumption services (SCS) at these agencies, however, DCS access will not be limited to SCS clients. Drug samples will be transported to nearby partnering hospitals, including the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health and St. Michael’s Hospital, to be analyzed using sophisticated mass spectrometry technologies (gas chromatography and liquid chromatography). Sample results will be communicated back to frontline agencies where they will be presented to clients along with tailored harm reduction supports and services.
As a component of the Toronto Overdose Action Plan, Toronto Public Health will assist in the design, implementation, and evaluation of the project. Toronto Paramedic Services and the Chief Coroner of Ontario will share data to support the evaluation of DCS. Public Health Ontario, Health Canada’s Drug Analysis Service Laboratories, Ontario Harm Reduction Network, Street Health, and Toronto Harm Reduction Alliance will play an advisory role in the execution of this pilot project.
DCS are also concurrently being launched in Ottawa and British Columbia under the management of the Sandy Hill Community Health Centre and the British Columbia Centre on Substance Use, respectively. All three jurisdictions will coordinate processes and maintain ongoing collaborations to maximize the impact of study findings by ensuring nationwide comparability of collected evidence.
Health Canada | St. Michael’s Hospital Foundation
British Columbia Centre on Substance Use | Centre for Addiction and Mental Health | Office of the Chief Coroner of Ontario | Ontario Harm Reduction Network | Public Health Ontario | Parkdale Queen West Community Health Centre | Sandy Hill Community Health Centre | South Riverdale Community Health Centre | St. Michael’s Hospital | Street Health | The Works | Toronto Harm Reduction Alliance | Toronto Paramedic Services | Toronto Public Health | Trip! Project
The CDPE has conducted an international cross comparison of illegal drug policies to create an online tool – the Drug Policy Metrics Map – to demonstrate the alignment and gaps between the metrics that countries use to assess the success of their drug policy and the actual drug policy-related outcomes they experience.View
This resource aims to provide an overview of select drug checking services in Canada that are harmonizing research protocols and approaches for the purpose of ensuring nationwide comparability of collected evidence.View
Read the Toronto Overdose Action Plan, endorsed by the Board of Health and calling for the implementation of drug checking at supervised injection sites and alongside harm reduction programming at music events.View
Read the report by Public Health Ontario, reviewing guidelines and published research on the use of drug checking services as a harm reduction strategy.View